There was a lot of smoke but ultimately no fire this deadline. Daily Thunder writers got together for a group reaction.
What grade do you give Sam Presti for his decision to ultimately stand pat this deadline?
Olivia Panchal: B+
It’s hard to give a grade based on the one publicized trade. Not only did the trade not happen, but we also don’t even know what Miami was offering in return for Danilo Gallinari. You can speculate Jae Crowder/Solomon Hill/Dion Waiters or even Tyler Herro if you like lying to yourself, but the truth is we don’t know. Furthermore, there may have been other trade pursuits for Dennis Schröder or Terrance Ferguson that we don’t know about.
If you were expecting Sam Presti to trade all of Gallo, Schröder, Chris Paul, etc. for more assets, then you’re either very naïve or you’re not from Oklahoma. The Thunder do not have the luxury of a Nets or Sixers-type rebuild. The Oklahoma economy literally depends on Presti. Oil markets would plummet affecting the entire global economy if Presti chose to blow it up. Realistically, the Thunder could’ve moved maybe one or two players at the deadline while retaining Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Even then, why sell? The Thunder are in control. They have great assets AND great players. If you’re not getting the best possible return, then there’s no reason to make a trade now. It also seems like the hold up with the Gallo trade wasn’t what OKC was getting in return– it was Gallo’s extension. You can’t fault Presti for that.
Alex Mcewen: C+
My only gripe about the Thunder deciding against a move is that Presti lost some flexibility by not creating an additional roster spot. Therefore, the team will have a decision to make: sign Luguentz Dort or sign a free agent via the buyout market. Given Dort’s performance (he’s currently owning the starting spot), the decision should be easy. In the event the Thunder feel they cannot pass up a buyout player, they could elect to waive Deonte Burton or Abdel Nader, but releasing either player seems doubtful.
Aidan Elrod: C
From what I saw about the Heat’s reported package for Gallinari (Waiters/James Johnson or Crowder/Hill), I would have been reluctant as well to trade him for an offer that weak. I’m afraid that it’s not out of the realm of possibility for OKC to lose their own 2020 first round pick (they currently sit at pick 21) and keeping Gallinari only strengthens the chances of that occurring. People keep bringing up the idea of sign-and-trades too, but before last season’s S&T deals in the offseason those were rare and hardly brought in any assets. Even Gallinari himself was involved in an S&T before that only netted the Nuggets a second round pick. I am aware that the talks fell through because of a contract dispute with Gallinari, but I wished he got dealt. Also, why not take a flier on a player like Jerome Robinson?
Presti saw that the Thunder are playing great basketball and it’s been as stress free in OKC as it has been in quite awhile. He wasn’t going to jeopardize the near future to get off Gallinari’s contract. He also wasn’t going to trade Schröder just to make a trade and please people. People love trades, but you have to be smart about them. OKC is 31-20 and have a ton of leverage, all created by Presti himself. Gallinari loves OKC’s culture is having fun playing basketball. It’s rare you get an A at the trade deadline for doing nothing, but Presti did just that.
Dom Flaim: D
On one hand, Presti didn’t actively fail by selling assets and going all-in on this season. But on the other (and more realistic) hand he kept Gallo’s expiring contract and didn’t cash in anyone for assets while riding a team full of veterans to a low playoff seed. I get the idea of holding off on a rebuild, but by trading Russell Westbrook and Paul George, you’ve committed to one. Don’t go half way. Right now there’s a single Thunder regular rotation player who projects to be part of the team when they’re relevant again and he (Shai) has absolutely no other future pieces around him.1 There’s no reason to keep chasing anything this year. Sign-and-trades aren’t common and are hard to pull off, so you’re banking on a long shot instead of getting an asset now.
Austin Fogt: A-
It’s only that low because I understand the case for adding some wing depth for this year’s stretch run. The fact is that the Thunder were never really supposed to be here, and the thing that makes this team effective, fun, and unique is their chemistry. Why bother messing with that when you’re playing with house money?
For those wishing Presti had gotten draft assets or young talent: breathe in. Breathe out. Feel better? Calm yourself. Every single move that could have been made at this deadline will be available in the summer, including a Gallinari sign-and-trade. Presti established a baseline value for Gallo with the Heat rumors, and will now be able to force his value up. If it doesn’t happen? Again, house money. Just remember the dark days after trading Russ and PG. It’s going to be okay. At least we didn’t trade Andre Drummond for a box of tissues. YIKES PISTONS.
Matt Tierney: A-
Listen. Most people are gonna criticize Presti because he didn’t do anything. The alternative would have been to make a trade, presumably with Miami, but he would not have gotten his value back if he agreed to anything they were offering. Between those two scenarios, this was the best one.
Who really deserves some credit here is Gallinari. He could have easily taken the 1+1 deal with a team option that Miami was offering if he really wanted to get out of OKC. But he is content here, and that’s awesome.2
Did any of the moves that did happen around the league affect Thunder’s rebuilding project beyond this season?
Elrod: I don’t think so. Neither the Heat, Clippers or Rockets really mortgaged much of their future at the deadline and that’s when OKC will have their picks.
Mcewen: The jury is still out on how the Clippers and Miami’s moves will impact the Thunder. However, the Rockets dealing Capela and going all-in with small ball could greatly improve the chances of Oklahoma City utilizing their pick swaps with the Rockets. Potentially as soon as next season.
Fogt: The immediate and straightforward answer seems to be no. Let’s think for a moment, though. The Grizzlies sacrificed some cap flexibility. The Wolves went all in on a core of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns (which, for the record, hard shrug). The Warriors ACTUALLY TOOK ON THE WIGGINS MONSTROSITY CONTRACT HAHAHAHA IM CACKLING. The Rockets ducked the tax and don’t employ a center. The Mavs stood pat. The Clippers have gone all in on this team and depend on two stars who can’t be separated from their health concerns. The Lakers stood pat except maybe getting closer to signing Darren Collison and soup-thrower JR Smith.
I’m just saying….I feel like the Thunder moved up in the hierarchy of the West, at least. They still have SGA and the necessary assets to flip for the next disgruntled star. It’s just a matter of time. What’s not to like? Okay, fine bump Presti’s grade up to an A if you must!
Flaim: Looking through the trades that happened, I don’t really see much affecting OKC’s future. I don’t think the Heat or Clippers moves significantly change OKC’s draft stock, though LA sending some young guys out might boost those picks further off.
Tierney: Everyone is (rightfully) trashing Golden State for their trade with Minnesota where they gave up D’Angelo Russell for Andrew Wiggins and a couple picks. But the picks are lightly protected and could be valuable. If they include their own pick (which will definitely be valuable), they may be piling up some assets to make a move that could get in the Thunder’s way. But for now let’s just keep laughing at the Warriors while we can. Miami is still an interesting target. They ended up sending their “salary dumps” to Memphis, so now matching Gallinari’s contract in the off-season has some added difficulty. But it can still happen if they are willing to budge on the contract negotiations.
Panchal: No. I honestly don’t think Miami helped their playoff window; they’ve got a weird mix of role players now. That being said, the East is wide open.[footnote]Editor’s note: let’s hope Giannis isn’t in Miami before that 2023 pick conveys to OKC. What happens with the Rockets and Clippers in the future largely depends on their success this season: the Clippers could win it all, and the Rockets are probably the same as last season.
Hickey: I do not see any moves affecting OKC. I still see the Rockets and Clippers breaking up their teams by the time their draft picks start conveying to the Thunder. The Wolves aren’t very good either, and D’Angelo Russell doesn’t change that much.
Left intact, do you think the Thunder will win their first round series?
Panchal: It obviously depends on the match up, but I like their chances against the center-less Rockets or the Mavs without Kristaps Porzingis. This team has surpassed all expectations already, so I don’t see why people are still doubting their potential. They’ll need greater contributions from Darius Bazley, Ferguson, and Burton to win a seven-game series, but I don’t think that’s unfathomable. People really underestimate what Chris Paul has left to offer. He’s going to reach another level in the playoffs. You can bookmark that.
Mcewen: Theoretically, the Thunder can win a playoff series. Whether they do or not will depend on many factors, some of which are out of their control. That starts with their health, and that of their opponents. Gallo has never advanced beyond the quarter-finals. OKC’s veteran trio of Paul, Dennis Schröder, and Gallinari have cumulatively advanced in 8 of 18 first-round series when appearing in all their team’s contests, and none of the three players have been swept in the first round. This group will be greatly motivated to advance to round 2.
Flaim: I could go further, but just no. There’s a talent gap and a scheme gap when your best lineups rely on three point guards and one of them is having a career year. To top that off, the end of the rotation is built on players who have no playoff history and some severe limitations. The Thunder are at last check 8-15 against teams above .500. This does not project well.
Tierney: The Rockets do not have a player over 6’4. The Lakers are signing the likes of Darren Collison and JR Smith. Dallas didn’t do a thing at the deadline. The Clippers were really the only ones that took a step forward. (So did Minnesota, but they have sucked so badly they’re not gonna make it). I won’t say if the Thunder will win or not, but I’ll let that information speak for itself.
Fogt: Give me Chris Paul’s step back elbow jumper late in the shot clock in the heat of any playoff series. It’s just….*chef’s kiss*. When you can fall back on a source of offense that reliable, you have a fighting chance in any playoff series. Unless you’re playing Kawhi, in which case, nighty night. And again I say to you: HOUSE MONEY.
Hickey: This is a tough question to answer because you have no idea who the opponent will be. Can they beat a team like the Utah Jazz? Absolutely, Thunder in seven. But it’s too early to tell who they will match up against. They will win at least two games against whoever they play. This team wasn’t supposed to win more then 31 games this year, so what they’re doing is a feat in itself.
Elrod: Most likely not. It’s a miracle that the Thunder are 31-20 right now with the severe lack of talent they have at the wing spot. Ferguson, Hamidou Diallo, and Bazley would never sniff the floor in a playoff series for a true contender and the Thunder’s poor record against teams above .500 speaks for itself. It’s also possible that either Paul or Gallinari, two recently injury-prone players, start to break down as the playoffs arrive.